Workspace Tours. Every Sunday
A free newsletter featuring workspace tours with makers + WFH tips and ideas.
An email notification, a phone call, a cat meowing loudly, a sudden urge to check Twitter or Instagram, “Let’s jump on a quick call” message...
And then it’s lunchtime.
Working from home is not a walk in the park — we are surrounded by distractions and temptations even in our own homes. Office distractions take up to 2,1 hours a day, studies have shown.
But that’s OK — working from home can get lonely and weird.
If you don’t have the right habits ingrained into your WFH routine, it’s easy to fall behind.
We asked creators and makers all over the world to share their experiences, challenges and actionable tips for staying productive (and sane) — all while working remotely.
Here’s what they said.
Draw the line between work and personal life
“When working from home, the separation between work and my personal life has definitely overlapped”, says Ryoma.
“Still, I try to make an effort to keep the two separate as much as possible. Easier said than done, for sure.
I often will wake up a bit earlier than my shift start time to allow myself to ease into the day, pull back the curtains, and lounge a bit in the natural light to gradually wake up”.
“I change out of sleepwear into something that’s work-appropriate but still comfortable.
It also helps to shift my mentality and ready myself for the workday ahead.
Having a workstation full of items that I love (but are not distracting) also makes me feel eager to be at my desk.
Again — keep items close to you or displayed that you enjoy, but steer clear of clutter.
I firmly believe that a tidy space leads to peace of mind, and that is so important when working out of a place so personal and intimate like your home.”
Prioritise what’s important
“Knowing the fine line between work and family time is my best tip for working from home”, shares Maru.
“It’s vital to be strict about family time because you can’t buy it.
Every moment should be cherished.”
Create a WFH routine that works for you
“In my case, it wasn’t a big adjustment when it comes to waking up early. I have kids that I need to help get ready for school.
I also recommend having a dedicated space where you can do your work. Have a workspace outside your bedroom if the space permits.
This will help you have that feeling of still “going to work” even if you’re just taking a few steps to go to the other side of your house.
Get ready the same way how you get ready when working at the office.
That means showering and stuff.
You could dress up too if you want, but me, I don’t dress up anymore. Lol!
Another thing that most people forget is to invest in a good chair. If you’re working from home, then most likely, you’ll be spending a huge chunk of your day sitting down”.
“At the end of each day, I make sure that my workspace is clean of any clutter.
I think not a lot of people do this but there’s something nice about starting the next day with a clean environment and a tidy workspace.
It’s better to keep your space clean every day than do a big clean once a week.”
Get time efficient
“For me, working from home is only effective when I’m particularly conscious of two things: proper task management and time efficiency”, writes Ty.
“With all the advantages offered by a WFH setup, there are a couple of drawbacks.
First, it’s easy to be distracted looking around your house and seeing all of the other projects that you need to do.
It’s easy to tell yourself, “I can just go organise the garage for a bit,” and end up taking three hours out of an otherwise productive workday.
Another thing is the ease of taking breaks in your home.
It’s just as easy to lay down on the couch or bed for a “break” and end up napping or scrolling on your phone for half an hour”.
“My best advice for anyone working from home is to choose a dedicated space in your house (away from your bed, couch, etc.).
Make the space as ergonomic as possible so that you can comfortably stay there for long periods of time.
Also, the extra screen real estate offered by a second or third monitor is always a great idea whether you’re a programmer, designer, or an average joe computer user.”
Use to-do lists to get things done
“When I’m working at home, I like to set out my day”, says DarkMatrixZero.
“I use whiteboards or sticky PC notes to check what things I would like to accomplish.
PC sticky notes are handy to use. I can make to-do lists for anything I need to do. Such as taking photos, sending across media packs, writing blogs, etc.
I break these down priority wise and always approach the most important first so that it gets done”.
It’s vital that you set yourself break times.
This is important for your own wellbeing, which should always be a priority too!
If you aren’t eating or drinking enough, how are you going to focus on what you need to complete”.
“Time management is a key thing. I will designate timeframes for each task which I know from experience how long they should take.
I will always allow a little extra time in case I come across editing errors or if something takes a little longer than it should.
I would say that my top tip is to find something that works for you. Not everyone works the same in terms of organisation or productivity.
Find ways that work for you in your space and go with them. Tidiness is always a given, though.”
Act as you would in the office
“Treat your home as an office during your working time”, says Michael.
“You should make a clear distinction between work time and personal time.
This way, your brain will know when it’s time to clock out. This will lead to a better work-life balance.
Take scheduled breaks.
Set up an alarm (or a Pomodoro timer) to get up and move every hour or so.
Breaking up the day and stretching your body helps you recharge and increases your productivity when you’re back to work.
Keep your office separate if you can.
You deserve a functional and appealing dedicated workspace”.
“I know not everyone has a spare room to use as an office at home. Keeping a monitor and CPU isn’t always feasible. But you can dedicate a desk or table and some peripherals to work only.
Last but not least, be positive. I’m not talking about the PCR test results. I mean life in general.
I believe positiveness should be overdone to the point where it may seem like you’re being overly optimistic.”
Gear up and get comfortable
“Get yourself a very cosy workspace, where you can sit comfortably for hours”, says Marc.
“Get good equipment that you like using and, if possible, have a dedicated room for work.
I know that not everyone can have that, but that is the one thing that will help the most when WFH — having a dedicated place to do that, where no one is distracting you.
Also, if not already done, get a solid headset/microphone for your desk setup — your coworkers will appreciate the better sound quality ;)”
Turn off notifications for work-related apps
“Manage your time well. I know how working from home since the start of the pandemic took a huge toll on everyone’s mental health”, says Kei.
“Get a dedicated space for work, if you can. Draw a distinct line between your work and personal life.
I know I’m not one to talk, but I’m trying not to think about work when I don’t have to — and I’ve come a long way”.
“Turn off notifications for your work-related apps during off-hours and resist the urge to check that app. Don’t forget to do the things you love and make time for your hobbies.
It is so easy to lose sight of all the extraordinary progress you’ve made during this pandemic.
You are striving, so be gentle with yourself.”
Stick with the plan
“I rarely follow these rules”, admits Kamil.
“I don’t want to force myself, but I know that if I did and stuck with them 100% it would boost my productivity a lot.
- Get up at regular times.
- Eat healthily and don’t check the fridge every hour (like me).
- Do the work first and only then check social media or waste time on stupid stuff, not the other way around.
- Make work/project the biggest priority.
- Turn off notifications”
Take better breaks
“I’m always searching to find my own balance in the work from home world, so I’m not sure how much advice I can give to others”, writes Graham.
“I’ve learned a few things in my experience that have been helpful. Taking small breaks throughout the day is very helpful for me to break up the monotony and keep myself energised.
In the summer, we’ll take our dogs on walks during lunchtime to get some air and sun.
Lastly, having a work area that you can delineate from your normal living space has been a big help to separate my work life and my personal life.
That being said, I can often struggle with the blurred lines of work and home these days so I’m always looking for tips from others”.
Limit your daily decisions
“Spend five to ten minutes each morning planning your day”, advises Hardeep.
“There’s a thing called decision fatigue.
We, humans, have a finite number of decisions we can make each day. After that, our ability to make better decisions starts to falter.
The better you can plan your day, the fewer decisions you’ll have to make, which should hopefully lead to a more productive day.”
Put yourself first
“If I work from home on freelance tasks, I prioritise the workload and move step by step.
Always stay calm and chill.
Make yourself comfortable because work from home sessions can take too much time. You don’t want to get tired or bored very quickly”, writes Amr.
“A quick tip. Before you begin working, take some time for yourself — about 15 to 30 minutes.
Have a walk around your home, stand in front of the window, or enjoy your favourite morning drink.
Chill your mind and give yourself some positive energy. That helps a lot for the rest of the day.”
Don’t let procrastination take hold
“Being at home every day gets a little bit tiring”, says Aliza.
“So going out in the garden or staying by the window for some air and morning sunlight helped a lot.
I usually work all night since I’m in the creative field. Time-consuming output with deadline pressure is real.
My most extensive advice, in general, would be to never procrastinate or cram.
It’s hard to do but make a schedule or a list and stick to it.
It will make your whole life easier.
Take breaks between projects, and don’t forget to treat yourself afterwards!
The WFH setup blurs the boundaries between personal and professional life. Make sure to take care of yourself by having the discipline of knowing when to stop”.
Change the scenery throughout the day
“It can be hard to stay focused sometimes. I definitely struggled with that at first”, says James.
“What I do that helps is open the software & project file I’m working on before I’ve had breakfast.
I’ll get out of bed, go straight upstairs to the studio, and open up what I need to work on for the day.
This means after I’ve wrapped up my morning routine, my work is already staring me in the face meaning I can get started with no distractions.
I personally find getting into the swing of things the tricky part.
But once I get stuck in, I end up finding it hard to stop, as the creative process is highly addictive”.
“You’ll have probably picked up from the previous paragraphs that I believe getting a change of scenery throughout the day is important.
Whether this is going to your local coffee shop to grab a quick drink, walk around the block once or twice, or fitting in that lunchtime gym session”.
“I find my days always feel longer and more fulfilling when I’ve been to a variety of places and done a variety of things.
If I’ve been sitting in the same position staring at a screen for eight hours, the day is gone in a flash.
In spite of that, if it’s one of those manic days where I can’t escape the desk, I’ve got a pretty great environment to be stuck in, that perfectly suits my needs.”
“I have to admit, I’m a procrastinator,” confesses PJ.
“I work best close to the deadline.
It’s definitely not the best approach and it doesn’t work for everyone. But it helps put me into a flow state that is great for more substantive, problem-solving, creative work.
It requires three things, though.
Really knowing what you need to get done, being confident in your ability and focus to pull it off, and being comfortable delivering in a situation with a narrow margin of error.
My tip is if you can’t tick off all those three things, procrastination won’t be the best approach for you.
Otherwise, to put me in the mood to work, I would get up at 7:30 am, have breakfast, get a bit of gaming or reading in, and take a shower to wake up”.
“A tip for people working from home for the first time. Don’t assume that you can just port over your workflow from your usual day at the office.
Meaning if you used to be able to plough through a 9-5 day with an hour lunch and separate work from life, it likely won’t be the same working from home.
Some are able to do so but it’s best to reorganise your day and recalibrate your expectations.
Have a nap when you’re tired.
Take advantage of the time you save from not commuting by doing chores.
Do something personal when you don’t feel like working.
Take a shower to wake you up, but then work when you’re most effective. Even if it means spreading out your workflow throughout a long day or a long workweek.
Ultimately, it’s not about work-life balance but work-life integration.”
Set a list of priorities and schedule your rest
“Although I do miss the camaraderie of working in an office with colleagues, I find I have never had a true problem with maintaining levels of productivity with working from home”, shares Madelaine.
‘The tranquillity of being able to focus on my work with fewer interruptions, as well as the freedom to put music on in the middle of the day if I wish to, is something I greatly enjoy.
I set myself targets for each day depending on workload and what needs to get done before the school run.
Sometimes, if there is a heavy workload, I may have to work weekends or evenings. More often than not, however, I am able to get a decent amount done before picking up the children from school.
If there are competing deadlines, I would recommend setting a list of priorities so that you can clearly see which needs to be addressed first and then be able to cross items off the list to feel a sense of achievement”.
Andrew: “I just wanted to add that taking enough breaks is extremely important — to the point that you should plan them in the same way that you plan your workload.
There is a good reason behind that: when you work from home, you often find that you don’t need to move from your desk as much because there are fewer distractions than if you worked in an office.
There is nothing more vital than scheduling your rest, yet it is something that can easily be overlooked.”
Use hot corners and move around the house
“I have been working from home for about two years now and I’ve learned a few things to improve my workflow”, says Patrick.
I’ve discovered five apps that help me get through my day.
I’m a bit of a software geek, so finding these apps took a lot of trial and error.
I start my day off by opening the Tempo email client, so I can take care of any urgent stuff and respond to people.
I then write down what my tasks for the day are using the MinimaList app.
Timepage is my calendar of choice for both personal and work stuff.
Dropbox organises all my files, so not only can I access them from anywhere, but so can my clients.
For any notes I need to take, I use Mettle, an MD writer”.
“When it comes to time management, I like to finish all my tasks 3-4 days before the due date so my colleagues have plenty of time to request changes, etc.
MinimaList’s built-in Pomodoro timer keeps me focused. Usually, I work for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break and drink some water.
The advice I have for people that work from home is to move around and separate their work and play spaces.
That way, you’ll enjoy your playtime more, since it won’t remind you of work. And vice versa — you won’t get distracted by your gaming gear when you need to concentrate on work tasks.”
Take a breather at regular intervals
“At the beginning of each day or week, I make a to-do list. As a result, I am able to actually accomplish things instead of wandering around my desk aimlessly”, recommends Bram.
“I also try to take breaks every now and then. I usually take a breather at around 10:30, 12:30 and 16:00 (if I continue working past 4 pm).
This helps to keep my mind focused. I wouldn’t recommend taking too long of a break though, since you will likely become demotivated after a while”.
“Also, I genuinely believe that a good setup is crucial. A good setup is the one that works for you.
This is why I built my workstation that way so that it does not hinder my creativity and productivity, nor does it distract me from the task at hand.”
Combine self-discipline with creativity
“I try my best to use every moment here and there to stay organised and optimise my time”, says Nicolas.
“I’m doing this interview while the little one is having a nap, for example.
I find working from home challenging.
You don’t have these distractions at the office. That’s why I truly believe we should seize every opportunity we possibly can.
Self-discipline and sticking to a strict routine are essential”.
“Yet, there is a paradox here.
To be productive and organised while working from home, you must be able to improvise and stay creative, mustn’t you?
...I think it’s the artistic part of me who is talking right now, haha!”
Enjoy what you do
“While it might seem obvious, the best tip I could possibly give is to enjoy what you do.
It is the key to being able to stay focused and enthusiastic about “working” while being in your home sanctuary”, says Roberto.
“Having a to-do list on paper is also a good idea. Personally, I have tried every app available on a computer, iPad or iPhone, but nothing beats good old fashioned paper and pencil in terms of keeping up with your agenda.
Every morning, I update my to-do list with all tasks that need to get done for that week. They are listed in priority order, so I tackle them from absolutely crucial to least important.”
Figure out your WFH playlist
“I couldn’t go a day without music”, writes Justin.
“The genre will depend on the activity at hand. Trap and DNB [Drum and bass] are reserved for productivity, house and lo-fi are for inspiration and relaxation”.
“Time management is a huge part of my life even though I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m good at it.
Sort your workload by priority and time per task. Cut corners only when you don’t need those corners. Stay hydrated and take breaks often, even if it’s just a quick second to stand up and stretch.
If I’m working inside a lot, I’ll take breaks outside and vice versa.”
Avoid distractions and plan your day
“When it comes to WFH, the best tips I can give you is to avoid distractions such as social media and to plan your day”, says Nilson.
“It doesn’t have to be all detailed but at least have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish.
When you do that, you will notice a big improvement in your productivity”.
“I try to keep my workspace as clean as possible and that also helps me to stay focused for longer periods of time.”
Find honest reasons to stay motivated
“I’m probably not the best person to ask for WFH tips as my job requires me to be physically at the job site”, admits Jay.
“However, there were some days during training where I had to work from home.
For the first few days, I had a difficult time focusing, not going to lie. I mean, working next to a gaming PC is probably not the best idea”.
“I just have to constantly remind myself that I am at work, even with house clothes on.
I don’t have a special routine or anything. I wake up, eat breakfast, and get through the day as if I’m not working from home.
Plus, I don’t want to get fired and I like money.
If these don’t motivate you to focus on your main job, I don’t know what to say.”
Keep your workspace organised
“If I have a large project I’m working on, keeping my home office and workspace clean and tidy minimises stress.
The fewer things I have to worry about in my immediate environment, the more mental clarity I have to work on my primary project.
If I’m having trouble staying focused, I set a timer for 20 or 30-minute intervals, giving myself a few minutes of rest after each interval”, says Detrik.
“I have also found that limiting my work to a set period of time helps me avoid procrastination, even if I know I should work on it longer.
When I have to start an overwhelming project, I only handle a small bite-sized piece of it at a time to overcome the mental hurdle.
Quite often, this is all I need because once I get into the swing of things, it no longer seems as daunting as it did before I started.
In fact, I usually accomplish a lot more than the small bite-sized chunk of work I gave myself without even thinking about it at the beginning.”
Don’t assume. Repeat yourself as necessary
“Given the incredibly unique COVID-19 environment we’ve all been exposed to, here are a few tips some may find helpful when working from home”, says Alex.
“1. If you can afford it or your company will expense it, make sure you buy a quality office chair with top ergonomics.
I initially cut corners on buying a cheaper chair.
I paid for it when my neck and back started to chronically act up.
Stepping up to the Steelcase Series 1 chair has been wonderful and I wish I had done it sooner.
2. Set ground rules for your home office space. Just because you’re at home and can pick up groceries, do a few loads of laundry, let service people into your home, etc., doesn’t mean that others should assume you always will.
If that’s how you choose to divide up, for instance, the domestic labour that’s fine. But if you simply take it all on by default because you’re at home, you may feel taken advantage of, and your productivity may suffer.
3. Over-communicate with your colleagues. Be direct and consistent about what your schedule is and when you will and will not be available.
Most importantly, don’t assume that people will remember — repeat yourself as necessary. Also, when you accomplish a critical task or project do not be shy about saying so”.
“With remote working and a lack of personal optics, there are so many anecdotes to be shared about professional recognition and compensation not being equitably distributed to the right people.
Let people know what you’re doing and what you’ve accomplished continuously (as awkward as it may be for you).”
Be mindful of your own needs
“You should ensure that your setup is functional and works for you before worrying about how it looks”, says Conor.
“What might work for others may not work for you, and that’s perfectly fine.
It is important to have a well-balanced daily routine if you want to maintain a strict yet healthy discipline.
Music or background noise that keeps distractions to a minimum can also help boost productivity. At least, it does work for me”.
Find your perfect playlist
“I seldom bring any work home, as privacy is a major concern in my job. (We need to ask permission to use flash drives!)”, shares Roland.
“Even during the height of the pandemic, we had been required to go to work as usual.
I find that starting a new task is much better done in the mornings since it’s the time we have a fresh state of mind.
In the afternoons, it’s where I try to pick up and finish anything that needs to be done, the bulk of the work so to speak.
Any focus-intensive work that is less menial and more mental I delegate in the evenings.
It’s when I can concentrate more properly as the world sleeps and I can be alone with my thoughts”.
“Speaking of menial tasks, slapping on a headset with my playlist of favourite music is best to fill the void as I do something that doesn’t need much thinking. The rhythm sets the pace of my fingers as I type away.
But when I need to come up with something, either for a more creative-oriented task or some writing in general, I only play something instrumental at low volumes or total silence to help with concentration.”
Value rest as much as work
“People who follow me on Instagram or know me personally will confirm that I always recommend planning breaks”, says Olja.
“Yes, you should plan not only your to-do’s but also your time to rest.
If you want to accomplish things and keep your sanity, you need a balance between work and rest.
It’s also vital to always find a way that works for you exclusively.
Create a workspace that is tailored to your needs.
Choose a study technique you can stick to. If you don’t like coffee in the mornings, drink milk or kompot [non-alcoholic fruit juice] instead.
In the end, everything you do, you do for yourself. Be sure not to pursue anything that is right for someone else but not for you.”
Don’t mix work and personal life
“It is very important to have a well-defined limit of where working ends and where personal life starts. Don’t mix these two”, recommends Bogdan.
“I have a fixed schedule for work — I start at 10 am and finish at 6 pm. Simple as that.
I don’t work late, I don’t do extra hours or things like that.
We sleep eight hours, we work eight hours, so all we are left with are another eight hours that we have to spend as well as we can and don’t ruin them working for others”.
“Of course, we can improve ourselves by learning or deepening things, but all I say is don’t forget to enjoy life and spend some time with yourself.”
Turn your space into an office
“I highly recommend that you do things pretty much as you would at the office.
For instance, I wear casual work clothes, chit-chat with colleagues, and walk around my apartment every hour”, says Uli.
“If it’s possible, consider building or designing a separate workspace that meets your needs.
It doesn’t matter if your home office is only a small corner.
All that counts is that you have one.
This is a place where you’ll be spending eight hours each day, so make yourself comfortable here.
This can be done through top-of-the-line tech devices, or it could be simple and not pricey things like a special pen or a picture that means a lot to you.”
Don’t work from your sofa
“One of the big changes for me moving from our bed flat to this house is having that separate space”, says Ben.
“I went a step further by dividing that space a bit with the two sides to the desk, but having a designated room makes a huge difference.
I know that’s not a tip, and not everyone can do that (especially if you’re renting in London or another expensive city), but if you can somehow create a feeling of separation, it’s a big help.
Avoid working from your sofa at all costs!
Get dressed as if you were going into the office. I wasn't doing this initially (I was guilty of the old top half-shirt, pyjamas on the legs!), but that bit of morning routine and being ready to start the day helps you feel like you’re at work and helped me focus more”.
“Eat lunch away from your desk if you have space for it. Try to get out for a walk at lunch or some point during the day. That helps me stay focused and is a great thinking time.
I’ve never been great at time management, but I find keeping achievable to-do lists helps. I don’t use any fancy apps or anything — just a good pen and paper.
I’ve been looking at Analog by Ugmonk recently but haven't gone for it yet, although I’m tempted!”
Try Atomic Habits
“Time-blocking is my favourite time management technique”, says Eve.
“You get to plan every hour of your day for the week and know what you need to do. That eliminates the time you would spend procrastinating thinking about what you should work on next.
Instead, I like to sit down on Monday morning with a cup of coffee and plan out my entire week”.
“Additionally, I enjoy time-blocking. Besides my full-time master’s studies, I work on my social media for @academic.eve and have a part-time job at a local home decor store three days per week. Therefore, I need to make sure I have enough time for everything!
My morning routine is full of rituals that help me prepare for the day. For example, I always work out and meditate in the mornings. Once I’ve completed my morning routine, my brain knows that it is time to sit down and work. I write a lot about this on my blog and Instagram.
If you would like to improve your routines and work on your habits, I highly recommend you read Atomic Habits by James Clear. He talks about how tiny changes can have remarkable results.
James also gives great practical advice that you can follow along while reading the book, such as filling out the Habit Score Card, etc. This book helped me improve all of my habits. Now I have better routines and do not procrastinate as much!”
Use WFH to your advantage
“I’ve tried a lot of terrible tips from YouTube influencers and the like”, admits Lasse.
“But I guess if you want that add-money, using a tip like “remember to breathe” makes sense.
I think I’ve sorted through the trash and found the ones that actually work, at least in my case:
- After an initial 30 minutes of reading emails and news, I set a timer on my phone for 90 minutes. For those 90 minutes, I am not allowed to pick up my phone or procrastinate. When my timer rings, I take a 15-minute break to stretch, go to the bathroom and grab a new cup of coffee/water. There are so many distractions at home, and this seems to be the best method of getting stuff done that I've found.
- Every morning I take a couple of minutes to clean my desk and the desktop on my PC. I’m not good with clutter, I only want stuff on my computer/desk that I will be working with that day”.
“Every year, clean all your drawers and move them into a box. Then gradually start putting back stuff that you need. Only then you'll realise that all the nicknacks you’ve accumulated over time are actually not needed. They can be put into storage or recycled.
- If you listen to music, find something rhythmic with no vocals.
- Go for a walk. Your body was designed to move, seriously. It’s both healthy and good for thinking. This one the YouTubers got right!
- If stuff is not going your way, take a break, work at night. Use WFH to your advantage.
- Avoid black holes: Instagram, Reddit, Facebook. They’re all bottomless pits, you could be scrolling forever. Avoid them during working hours.”
Stretch every hour
“I would highly recommend creating a workspace that is separate from your rest/relax space”, says Lizz.
“However, if your WFH setup is in your bedroom, try to carve out a specific place in the room that is away from your bed. This will allow you to differentiate between “work mode” and “relaxation mode”.
I also recommend keeping to-do lists. Sometimes working from home can be distracting. This might be because of the other people living in your home or maybe your pets or neighbours.
Distractions can lead to less productivity, so I find that creating daily to-do lists helps me stay on track. Also, handwriting my to-lists and keeping them visible while I work constantly reminds me of what needs to be done for the day.
My last tip is to remember to get up, stand and stretch every hour or so. We often get so caught up in the work that we forget to get up and move”.
“I am definitely guilty of being glued to my chair when I am working. Thankfully, I have my Apple Watch to remind me to stand every hour.
If you don’t have something to remind you to get up and stand throughout the day, try writing it on your to-do list.
It’s good to get your eyes off the screen and focus on something else for a few minutes.
I have found that getting up to stretch even just for a minute, helps boost my mood and productivity.”
Do one thing at a time
“Consistency and single-tasking are the two essential features that help me feel productive and focused during the day”, says BasicAppleGuy.
“I keep my day-to-day routine very similar which creates clarity and flow through my day.
By doing so, I don’t have to second guess or waste time contemplating what I should be doing next when it’s all planned out and embedded in an established routine. And starting the day with a Fitness+ workout and a breakfast I enjoy has boosted my workday’s quality and satisfaction.
Second, I try to limit any task-switching (e.g., checking email when writing notes or taking 30-second breaks to check social media) because I find that rapidly jumping between tasks is highly corrosive to how productive and focused I am.
In the immortal words of Ron Swanson:
“Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing”.
“And lastly, creating a workplace that brought me a lot of joy has been paramount to staying focused, productive, and sane(-ish) during the past year.
From the music from my HomePod, keeping the space clutter-free, to the breeze through the window, to the choice of wallpaper, I try to find purpose and pleasure behind the things I surround myself with.”
Wake up at the same time, including weekends
“I don’t have a great many tips to offer, but I am a firm believer in discipline”, shares Olivia.
“In Graduate School I was a disciplined student and when we went into lockdown and the pandemic moulded our lives into the current ones, I realised I had to level up: as a consequence, I started to create some manageable routines.
I always try to wake up at a certain hour, even during the weekends”.
“Moreover, practising yoga daily has taught me how to connect with myself on a more organic level and how to listen — really listen — to my needs and my anxiety.
For instance, I do know that I need to have a to-do list on my desk before starting my workday; and therefore, I try to create one the evening before.
It helps allay most of my anxieties.”
Get some fresh air
“Working from home has been a super interesting challenge”, says Matt.
“There are a lot of great videos on YouTube, where creators who had been WFH for years before the pandemic share their strategies — so full credits to them”.
“The key takeaways that I’ve applied to my own habits would be the following:
- Try to have a morning routine even though you're not commuting into an office anymore. This helps you feel more awake and ready to take on the day; typically involves showering, eating breakfast, and wearing outside clothes.
- Go for walks during the day if you can. If you’re like me and you use your bedroom as your workspace this helps reset your mental state throughout the day. Plus some fresh air is always good for the creative mind.
- Nothing worse than starting the day at a messy workstation. Keep your workspace tidy, reset your space so that it’s ready to go for the next day.
- After you finish your day job, spend a couple of hours break away from your computer so that it doesn’t feel like you’ve spent the entire day at your desk.
- Keep a pitcher of water at your desk. Not only is drinking water good for you, but more water means the more times you need to get up and go to the bathroom. A great reminder to get up and move.”
Make your tasks as specific as possible
“Planning ahead is key!”, says Lisa.
“Whenever possible, I use Microsoft To Do to schedule all my tasks, and I plan on a weekly and daily basis. Before I end my work for the day, I check which tasks need to be done the next day and prioritise those that are the most important.
I’ve recently taken my state exam in psychology, the most important one for me to date. I began my preparation five months earlier, using a variety of sources to come up with the summary.
Once I had done that, I made a revision plan and created flashcards for anything I had to memorise by heart. Every day I went over them, along with reviewing the other parts that I didn’t need to know word for word, but had to be able to explain in my own words.
To me, the key to good exam prep lies in planning ahead, starting early, and revising regularly — little bits at a time.
This approach helps me reduce test anxiety and lower stress levels.
When formulating a task, I try to be as specific as possible. For example, “read article X for seminar Y + take notes”. This way I can better estimate the amount of time each task will take, and thus plan my days realistically.
As for time management, I consider time blocking to be a good method to get things done as you don’t have to switch between different tasks all the time.
“My friend @academic.eve introduced me to a thing called PowerHour. You batch all the tasks that won’t take you long and complete everything in one hour to get them out of the way!
To stay focused, I lock my phone using the Forest App. And when I feel I need a break, I give my body and brain some rest straight away.
Although I don’t have a set-in-stone morning routine, I like to eat a hearty breakfast and catch up on the news before I start the day.
If you’re starting WFH, my advice is to create a dedicated feel-good study space with enough light and everything else you might need. If you live with other people, it's a good idea to figure out when everyone can have quiet times to study or have a Zoom call.
Another helpful habit is to schedule breaks, workouts, and me-times as you do tasks.
It’s easy to overwork when there’s no set time when you leave a workplace or a study room. Make me-time and rest non-negotiables to keep a healthy work-life balance and avoid burnout.
Remember — if you’re not 100% productive or motivated on one day, it’s not the end of the world. Probably it’s just the beginning.
Be gentle with yourself, these are strange times for all!”
Set up routines for different times of the day
“Having defined blocks of time for as many things as possible helped me create an efficient working-from-home routine”, writes Kevin.
“This includes blocked off time for focused time (no meetings) as well as for lunch and breaks. These blocks of time keep me focused during the day.
“I have a lot of smart home devices as well and I’ve set up routines for different times of the day.
I have a routine in the morning that announces the weather and my next meetings.
I also have routines that announce when it’s lunchtime and 5 pm.
It’s easy to lose track of time when I spent time at my desk for most of the day. These reminders help create a good work-life balance.”
Adjust your habits
“Studying from home is hard, mainly because there are many nuisances nearby”, says Shekinah.
“Without time management and strict goals, it is tough to be productive. And this is what happened to me during the first few months of the pandemic.
But I woke up one day, scolding myself for procrastinating a lot, and the accumulated works were stressing me out. So I changed my habits strictly (although my sleeping routine is still messed up).
I try to get done the maximum of my homework as soon as I receive it to lessen the load. Sometimes I study from 1 pm to 3 am, with a few breaks in between.
But I don’t deprive myself of taking a break as much as I can afterwards.
After dinner, before studying, I have this routine of taking a long hot shower and making myself a hot mocha drink. I wear pyjamas when studying.
It increased my focus and comfort so I could study for longer hours.
My advice for other people who are just starting working or studying from home is to find some techniques tailored for you.
Everything is different for everyone. My routine might not work for you, so it is essential to listen to your needs”.
“Avoid procrastinating because it will ruin everything. Work or study as best as you can, but allow yourself to relax and recharge.
I have learned that sleep deprivation eats our brains, so it is essential to rest and get enough sleep.
I know that my sleeping routine is messed up, but I make sure to take enough rest. I always listen to my body. I stop and drop my work immediately as soon as I feel tired but still making sure that I don’t procrastinate.”
It is crucial to have a strict schedule.
That’s hard, but nobody else can do it except you. So you need to learn self-discipline to work towards goals that are worthwhile for you.”
Separate work and play
“Having the same desk for work and entertainment, such as playing games, has never worked for me.
I could not have focused on my assignments this way. Therefore, I do not have a game console on my desk. It would simply distract me from my work.
For this reason, I keep my console in the living room. In my limited free time, I play football (like the latest FIFA) or do anything else to unwind from the daily grind”, says Matúš.
“Aside from that, I have a habit of tidying up my workspace in the morning. It motivates me throughout the day and enables me to be more productive in general.
Starting the day off with a motivational ritual can be helpful for beginners or anyone unfamiliar with working from home. But different things work for everyone. You need to figure out what’s right for you.”
Just sit down and do some work
“As a self-certified professional procrastinator, this is a subject I have studied intensely”, admits Joakim.
“When you scour the internet and library for information on this subject you will stumble upon a multitude of different techniques and ways to keep a leash on your mind.
These will all probably work to some extent and you have to find ways that suit your lifestyle. The Pomodoro technique for example I have found to be very effective.
BUT! The more you learn about this, the more you will realise that one simple fundamental truth about productivity trumps all: sit down and do some work.
That is all. It’s all you need to know”.
“Don’t try to find some hidden knowledge or some awesome secret technique. You are overcomplicating things.
The reason you are so determined to find some other way that will make you more productive is that you are trying to find an “easier” path when you know deep inside that the only way forward is through work.
Even five minutes matter if that is all you can muster for the day. Open whatever software you use and fuck around with it.
Just don’t stagnate.
That is the only true way. Just accept that at times you will be uncomfortable in the process and move on.
Also, “willpower” is not endless, you have a limited amount of willpower each day.
Every little decision you make depletes your willpower. Think of it like currency and spend it wisely.”
Set up a dedicated office space
“Try and keep your space separate from other family members or those you are living with.
I’m quite lucky as I don’t have any young children or other family commitments now. It allows me to work at home quite well and be free from distractions”.
Block out your time
“I like to maintain a schedule, to have some boundaries between “work” and “home”, says Matt.
“I wake up daily at 6:30 am, which is more or less the time of the sunrise around here. I always sleep solid 8 hours a day, so I am usually in bed before 10 pm.
The first thing I do in the morning is fire up the coffee machine. After a few sips of espresso, I either go running or do yoga, sometimes both.
I don’t like to check my phone or any other networked device before I am done with that, so usually, the first app I ever open is Spotify, when running, or DownDog, when doing yoga”.
“I usually avoid work until around 8-9 am, then take a lunch break around 12-2 pm and keep working until at least 3-4 pm. The hours are flexible, but more or less the same.
It’s especially important since running a business has a way of creeping into my free time, especially when my best friend is your business partner, and work can pop up in virtually any conversation.
Juggling all my various responsibilities comes rather easy for me.
When I am not doing anything extremely demanding, like actually writing code, I am good at multitasking — especially with three screens in front of me.
When I need to focus, I simply switch to “away” on Slack, silence all notifications and have my period of “deep work” fully focused on code.
That’s the only advice I can give when it comes to focusing and getting things done — have a block of at least a couple of hours where you don’t do anything else than the task at hand.”
Keep track of your accomplishments
“I find it useful to make a list of things I want to accomplish. Once I have my tasks determined, I begin from the top and go through everything in order”, states David.
“Keeping track of your achievements is extremely important. By just working nonstop without backtracking and reflecting on what you have already done, you fall into a rut of burnout easily.
Never disregard your health.
Go for a run, play football, golf, or whatever you enjoy, to get physically tired so you can fall asleep quickly at night.
The value of quality sleep time cannot be overstated. A well-rested person is always better at getting the tasks done than someone who is sleep-deprived.”
Be good to yourself
“Although I am no guru in productivity or whatnot, here are some tips I’ve found useful”, says Jeorge.
1. Take a shower and get dressed in the morning.
Even if you do it in the comfort of your own home, this should be much like getting ready for a normal day at the office. So that your body and mind are truly awakened.
2. Drink tons and tons of water.
There are countless benefits to staying hydrated so make sure to keep a bottle, flask, or whatever you prefer on your desk within reach. Another option would be to stand up and walk to your kitchen or dining area to grab some water. That ties into my next tip.
3. Don’t forget to move or at least do some activity between tasks.
It is bad for our health to sit at a desk for too long, so as I mentioned in the previous tip, it is a good thing to stand up and maybe walk around the house from time to time.
4. Manage your tasks but don’t expect too much.
My job has taught me how to manage the tasks, so now I'm using pretty much the same approach for my personal projects too. The management of your daily tasks can be a good thing for you and will help you clearly set and effectively achieve goals within your day.
But what’s more important is to not put too much pressure on yourself, meaning you should not expect too much to be accomplished by the deadlines you have set. Not finishing everything is pretty normal I think, aim to finish at least 2 to 4 things a day and I am sure that would be rewarding too.
5. Choose your music wisely
This last one is a little subjective and there might be different preferences, but I have two rules for choosing my music for WFH.
a. If I need to concentrate on something without distraction, I listen to chillhop beats, ambient sounds, instrumentals, anything that has no lyrics, so I can stay focused on the task at hand.
b. Whenever I’m doing things that don't require much attention, I play my favourite pop songs, hip hop, punk rock, etc. Or even listen to podcasts to get some inspirational thoughts even when I’m busy doing things.
Again, I’m not a productivity expert or anything but maybe try one or two of these tips to see if it works for you. Take care”.
Set your boundaries
“The biggest challenge for working from home for me is space.
Not necessarily the actual physical space, but the boundaries and the rules by which everyone has to learn to abide within those boundaries.
So if it’s your office space, meeting space, study space, set down some ground rules and abide by those rules”, advises Richard.
“At home, we are free to move around but we are also to be mindful of what type of “work” or “attitude” we bring into whatever boundary we are in.
Encourage your “co-workers” or “classmates” in the house and be nice overall. If you live alone, bring yourself into a different space on occasion to unwind.
Be kind to everyone but especially to yourself.
Lastly, give yourself a break. No work is more important than your personal sanity, or your personal relationships.”
Be gentle with yourself
“My tip for working from home (if you’re not doing it by choice or are doing it under less than ideal circumstances) is to be gentle with yourself.
It’s OK if you’re not as productive or as happy as you were when things were “normal”.
It’s OK if you’ve gained weight or abandoned that hobby you were going to try or if you can’t keep your house clean or maybe if you’ve picked up a habit of crying in the shower before bed every night”, says Hazel.
“Of course, I can repeat back all the things that have been repeated to me: close your laptop when you’re done working, go for walks, remember to get your exercise, wear work clothes to get into a more productive headspace, drink more water, eat healthily and meditate.
But is anyone actually doing all those things? I’m not.
We’re all in this together, ya know?
So be kind to yourself, be kind to others and relax that little space between your eyebrows. Unclench your jaw. Wiggle your toes and take a deep breath. You’re doing great.”
Set weekly or monthly targets
“Just do it! Don’t let your internal overthinker talk you out of taking your first step”, says Nadine.
“There’s no one ideal WFH routine to which everyone must adhere. For instance, I'm not the type of person to follow detailed to-do lists, but if you feel comfortable using them, go for it.
I prefer setting weekly or monthly targets.
For me, it’s a good way to get things done, and all I need to get going is a few stepping stones”.
“I usually start my working day with a smaller task to get the ball rolling, even if it's not very important.
As soon as that first smallish task is finished, I'm on track and ready to work and “go with the flow”.
Working from home requires a strong sense of self-discipline. Those lacking it may need to communicate their daily objectives and weekly goals with peers or friends. A healthy dose of pressure may be useful to get you started.
Another important thing: do some exercise or physical activity every day. Even if it's only taking a short walk, you have to move your body and change context.”
Start your day a little earlier
“Before COVID, I had only really worked remotely from home for about three months”, writes Cam.
“My girlfriend and I were moving to Austin, TX in July of 2019, and I had acquired a job in Austin a few months before we moved. As we were still in the Boston area, I got the approval to work remotely from Boston until we moved, and worked from home from April to July.
This was a huge change for me.
Before this job, I had hardly ever worked from home aside from the occasional snow day. Spending all day at my desk, without seeing anyone (as my girlfriend was still going into her office every day), was wildly different from what I was used to.
One thing my girlfriend taught me was not getting up right before I have to work, but instead getting up a little earlier. Normally, during this WFH period, I’d find myself staying in bed until 5-10 minutes before I started work. Often this made me feel rushed and made it seem like all I did most days was wake up, work, eat, and go to bed.
Starting my day a little earlier by getting up 30-45 minutes before work has helped me ease into work each morning and prevented me from feeling as rushed as I normally would.
My girlfriend practices the same discipline, and will often be up early reading with a cup of coffee, writing notes down in a journal, or just looking out the window enjoying what's outside.
Going right from sleep to work can seem brash for some, but giving yourself a buffer to get yourself situated well before you have to work can help make that transition a bit easier.
One of the biggest challenges I find is trying to fully separate myself from work at the end of each day, especially if I still plan on being at my desk after work for photo editing, gaming, or just researching things”.
“I’ve found that having your space be different when working or “relaxing”, whether it’s a change of lights, moving things around on your desk, sitting vs. standing, or anything that can make work and play feel different helps me keep the two separate.
Lastly, make sure you get outside (if you can safely), go for a walk, drive somewhere, and make sure your weekends are spent exploring if possible!
I often find myself inside for a week straight, and after a while, it takes its toll. Walking around outside, driving somewhere to just sit and have a coffee or tea, making lunch at home and having a picnic somewhere — literally, anything that’s not inside can help refresh your mind and help break up your days and weeks.
More often than not I find my days and weeks blending into one another if I don’t do something different in between them.
Being safe during these COVID times is obviously critical, but many activities can be done safely and still allow you to do something other than sitting inside all the time.”
Turn off your phone or leave it in another room
“I’ve got three tips.
The first one: get dressed as you would for going to the office. Wear jeans rather than a pyjama bottom and a shirt instead of a pyjama top. It will help you mentally adjust to the fact that even if you are at home, you are still at work”, claims Lisa.
“Here is my second advice. Drink. Enough. Water. You know what, go ahead and drink some water now. I’ll wait here.
A final tip: if you need to focus, turn off your phone.
Or better yet, leave it in another room.
We are accustomed to checking our phones at random. We touch it. It lights up. Could there be a new notification for us? Let’s check it out. And the next moment you’re watching TikTok, and it’s been three hours.
When turned off and out of sight, your phone has no chance to distract or tempt you, and you are able to focus on what’s important. The sands of time slow for no one.”
Get the hard work out of the way first
“Get up and shower. Get dressed and wake yourself up. You won’t believe how much this can change your mood and productivity.
I always keep a notepad in my office.
I write things down as ideas come about.
It is awesome to refer back to when needed”, says Ian.
“I try to get client work out of the way first, that way I can focus on myself and my projects afterwards. I can tackle my stuff differently and I like that.”
Keep it simple
“I would suggest everyone keep things simple. Less material is less distraction”, writes Merve.
Trying to get the best out of what one already has is better than pouring lots of money into the mere setup.
Because what we do, our work is what’s essential not the tools we use. At least I believe so”.
“And I also believe that setting daily, weekly, short term, long term goals and following a planned path to achieve them is very important in being successful.
Getting up early and taking long peaceful walks are the two things I can advise without hesitation”.
Get a bullet journal
“I also struggle with working from home — or in my case studying from home — so I do not have that many tips to share”, says Christian.
“Since we are all stuck in our own homes, I think the first step that we should take is to have a dedicated space to work. You can really get a better handle on everything and focus more on what you do.
It does not matter if it looks not too fancy at first as long as it’s functional and you feel comfortable being in it.
One of the reasons why I built my desk setup was to have space where I could focus and get motivated to read my lessons and do my homework. And I’m happy because it’s working well for me and I enjoy being in it.
Sometimes I lose track of everything — my deadlines, schedules, etc. So I decided to buy a bullet journal.
I use it to jot down my thoughts or ideas that I might need in the future but I mainly use it to plan my day.
Having a bullet journal makes it easier for me to prioritise what’s important. It also enables me to be more productive and organised. If ever you want to try journaling, there are plenty of YouTube videos that you could watch.
But if you aren’t that kind of person, you could just use an app on your phone as well, if that’s what you prefer.”
Get into the zone but remember to take breaks
“When it pertains to working on my personal projects at home, I have to get rid of any distractions and position myself in a space that allows me to be focused on my tasks”, writes Chris.
“I love to listen to solo piano or acoustic arrangements when I’m editing photos. It’s peaceful background noise and keeps me focused on the work in front of me.
Because I’m limited to just my laptop, it’s easy to want to be on the couch or in bed, but I’m way less productive that way — hence, the [drop-leaf] desk.
Once I’m locked into a project and find a good groove, I struggle to remove myself from it because, well, creating is fun to me!
I truly love the creative process. However, to avoid burnout or fatigue, I do take breaks from time to time”.
“If I’m burning the midnight oil and find myself struggling with an edit, stepping away and revisiting my projects in the morning or the following day allows me to see them with fresh eyes.
This way, I may find that I have a better vision or idea to work with.
As for advice for working from home, I think finding a way to properly separate workspace from play space is key.
I know this was something I struggled with, and if I had to work from home again, I’d find a way to ensure that my distractions are limited, whether I’m working or… “working” ;)”
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